Fasting, A Time of Desperation

During our final week of fasting it is still very important to remember that a Daniel Fast is only a diet if there is no desperation, the stirring of the emotions. Matthew gives a compelling picture of what desperation looks like in Matthew 9:18-26.

At a time that Jesus’ ministry is becoming controversial one of the main leaders of the Synagogue in Capernaum comes to Jesus. According to Mark and Luke, his name was Jairus. This could be political suicide. But he was desperate.

Matthew records that the daughter has just died and Mark and Luke record that she is almost dead. The greek word that is used here in Matthew does not make this a contradiction but rather than being dead it is evident that she may be dead by the time that he brings Jesus back to his house. This is last minute. He is in panic mode.

This was Jairus’ baby. According to Mark and Luke, she is twelve and his only child. By the age of 12 the daughters were to be referred to as a woman. But, being his only child, this is not a woman to him but his little girl.

So, why do you think that he waited until she was almost dead? Did he not love her? Did he not know days or hours earlier that she was sick?

I have this sneaking suspicion that his wife was behind him going to Jesus. I can picture them panicing because nothing they have done has made her any better. Her breathing is becoming laborsome. The color is leaving her face. Her hands are clammy. They are pacing the room and his wife says, “Jairus, forget what the other people will say. I just want my little girl back. Go get Jesus!”

It is amazing how we restrict ourselves because of fear of what others will say. He was one of the leaders of the religious community and the pastor of his Synagogue. He had a reputation to guard. He had a congregation he needed to protect from strange teachings.

But, it is amazing what desperation will drive you to. Desperate? It is evident. The leader came and worshipped Jesus. I don’t think that he intended to give such a display, but when he saw Jesus a wave of emotions overtook him, crumpling him at His feet.

Back in 2001 Melody and I were on a two week missions trip to Peru. Half way in the trip I had the opportunity to call home and her Dawn’s voice. A 10 minute call that cost me $110. I was fine until I heard her say “hello.” For close to a minute I could not talk for weaping. It was a wave of emotion. I did not expect it.

Desperation has brought this leader to bow before Jesus at Matthew’s house, the tax collector, where Jesus is hanging with sinners and John the Baptist’s disciples are wondering why they are not fasting as they did. Jesus is breaking traditions and in this context Jairus is basically saying, “Right now I do not care about traditions. Just let me get ahold of Jesus.”

Now, keep in mind that it is very doubtful that anyone thought that Jesus was their Messiah as of yet. So, I do not think that he was worshipping as to worship God. This worship was one of respect, to bow in the presence of a dignitary, an authority. What humility to be a leader with whose words have great weight to bow to a man who has no title nor position. Jairus is saying, “I’m helpless. I can’t do it and I need you.”

Jesus was there all along. He had the answer to his problem days ago but Jairus was not ready to ask for it. He was not desperate yet. Back then, he felt that he was still in control. Now, he has lost control.

It was only when his need became greater than the desire for public opinion. This is the picture of desperation. What is amazing is that we find another story of desperation in the middle of Jairus’ story.

You want to connect with God? Get desperate. What are you desperate for? What were you desperate for and gave up on?

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FASTING part 2

Matthew 6:16-18  16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Let’s go to the letters themselves in the Hebrew word for fasting in the original pictogram. What story do they tell?

    • The first letter is the Tsade. It is the picture of a man laying on his side. The letter means need. In this case it would be a person in need for lack of eating.
    • The second letter is the Vav. It is the picture of a nail. It means to connect and is often used as a conjunction in connection two ideas together.
    • The third letter is the Mem. It is a picture of water and is the word for water. But not just any water. The water is troubled, stirred up. The letter can also mean chaos and stirred feelings deep within.

What are the two ideas that the Vav is connecting together? The person weakened by the lack of food and the stirred emotions.

Put this definition with Jesus’ description of what He suggests we do when we enter into the public during or following a fast, wash up and cover the smell, and it gives a picture of someone who is willing to spend the day or more before God in anguish rather than satisfy the personal need for food.

Fasting is not focused on what you give up as much as the anguish deep within you. What is stirring within you? What drives you to tears? What keeps you awake at night? What will never happen that you need so desperately unless God jumps in and takes control? It is that which burns within you that will determine what you are willing to give up in order to receive what you so desperately are interceding for.

Therefore, whether a partial fast, a water only fast, or a fast with nothing – all is determined by what you are able to give up for what you so desperately seek for.

What else is Jesus saying about fasting?

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